Ireland not getting the ‘wrong’ sort of asylum seeker, rather asylum seekers in Ireland are getting the ‘wrong’ kind of protection system, says Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: 22 September 2011

Thursday, 26 May 2011:

The Department of Justice’s explanation that Ireland’s low recognition rate is due to the profile of asylum seekers received ignores the fundamental flaws in the current system, says the Irish Refugee Council. The IRC made the comment in response to statements by Department of Justice officials  replying to the UN Committee Against Torture which has been examining Ireland’s human rights record.  

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) says: “In the IRC’s experience, it is not that Ireland does not get the ‘right’ sort of asylum seeker, it is that people seeking protection in Ireland simply do not get the ‘right’ kind of protection system. This fails the Irish people as much as it fails those who seek protection.”

 The Department of Justice’s argument is based primarily upon the top 5 nationalities which, for a long time, have made the most applications for asylum in Ireland.  But a comparison with other European countries with a significant number of applicants from those countries shows that nationality cannot account for Ireland’s low recognition rate. 

According to Eurostat figures, 20% of applicants (385 individuals) in Ireland came from Nigeria, 12% from China and 10% from Pakistan.  By way of comparison, the largest number of applicants in Italy are also Nigerian nationals, making up 14% of applications. The second largest are Pakistani,  at 9% of all applications.  Despite similar country breakdowns, Italy has an above average recognition rate of 38%. Switzerland, with an acceptance rate of 42%, received 1,970 applications from Nigerians, or 13% of applications.  In short, the two other European states who receive similar applicants had recognition rates that were well above the European average. 

Sue Conlan adds: “Our poor record of recognition cannot be easily explained away by the ‘quality’ of applicants here.  In the experience of the Irish Refugee Council, three factors are contributing to the below average rate.  First,  the culture of disbelief which means that facts irrelevant to the question of persecution are held to undermine the credibility and result in a negative verdict.  Second, the checks and balances which are set out as minimum standards for all EU countries and which help offset the negative assumptions about those applying for asylum  are not in place here.   Third, the system lacks an effective, truly independent appeals mechanism. 
“It is as a result of these errors or omissions that it is often essential for lawyers to challenge negative decisions in the courts.  Any delays in the court system or on the part of the Department of Justice in processing claims for subsidiary protection or leave to remain are not the responsibility of either asylum seekers or their lawyers.  Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous.”

The IRC is lobbying for urgent reform of the asylum system.  Key priorities for the Council are a single procedure for the consideration of both asylum and subsidiary protection claims; more transparent decision-making; a robust independent appeals system; and an end to delays.